Parquet Courts’ sixth album ‘Wide Awake!’, released back in May, is their best yet, with the band’s sardonic punk punctuated with funk, hardcore, a heavy social conscience and, maybe most importantly, bundles and bundles of fun. As they end a UK tour in support of the record at London’s Roundhouse tonight, it’s clear that fun still sits at the top of their pile of priorities.
Thundering straight into album opener ‘Total Football’, the chemistry between the New York quartet has never been more natural or free flowing - as they rattle into ‘Dust’, from 2016’s ‘Human Performance’, a rollercoaster begins that doesn’t so much as flinch for the next 90 minutes. When the crowd join the band in losing all inhibitions - a host of bodies crash together at the start of the infectious ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience’ - tonight becomes one of the most effortlessly fun shows of the year.
The band are illuminated by rainbow lights, casting their silhouettes onto a background. It serves to accentuate the interplay between the quartet: Max Savage is an intricate but steady beat-keeper behind the kit, while Sean Yeaton’s basslines provide the groove that defines ‘Wide Awake!’ and are pushed to the front tonight. Then, in Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, you have a perfectly contrasting pair of frontmen. The former, responsible for the new album’s most furious moments, hurriedly worming his way around the fretboard and howling until his lungs give out, while his counterpart - complete tonight with a quite horrifying bowl cut - swaps between keyboard, guitar, whistle(!) and abandoning instruments altogether in favour of dad-after-half-a-bottle-of-whiskey-at-a-wedding dancing. The balance is perfect, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off the pair of them.
As well as seeing the band at the very top of their game, tonight is a special one: it’s Parquet Courts’ biggest ever show. To mark the occasion, Andrew leads the crowd through a game of Parquet Courts trivia. Turns out, after very little help from the sold-out crowd, that their first show was in a Brooklyn basement in December 2010, and their first trip to London was for a Shacklewell Arms show three years later. No such banter is needed - the band more than carry their weight as Roundhouse headliners without a word - but it just amps up the feeling of the quartet being more comfortable in their skin than ever before, shown perfectly when they barrel through a lightning-fast one-two of ‘Master Of My Craft’ and ‘Borrowed Time’.
“This is the most expensive pub quiz you’ve ever been to,” Austin deadpans before an explosive, funky-as-hell one-two of ‘Tenderness’ into the title track from the new record. When they close on an impeccably tight, drawn-out jam version of ‘One Man No City’, rising and falling with precision until the tension releases for a final thrash through ‘Light Up Gold II’ and the band depart without ceremony, it’s clear we’re seeing a group at the peak of their powers, entering a whole new realm.